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[WATCH] Smuggling networks being industrialised, MOAS says

Smuggling networks are becoming more industrialised in order to keep up with the demand, resulting in people being set in larger numbers and in lower quality rubber boats, MOAS has said

Jeanelle MIfsud
16 November 2016, 11:53am
The true death toll is much higher than the recorded figure, MOAS said
The true death toll is much higher than the recorded figure, MOAS said
The shift of asylum-seekers crossing to Europe from “more manageable trickles” to “large waves” this year signals that the smuggling networks appear to be industrialising, search-and-rescue foundation MOAS said in a statement.

MOAS said that has seen its humanitarian efforts overwhelmed this year, attributing it to the changing approach of smuggling networks. “Whereas in past years, crossings were organised in more manageable trickles, perhaps a few a day, this year our crews have seen departures organised in large waves,” it said. “This change in approach might be both an attempt to maximise opportunity and meet demand on the part of the smugglers.”

This so-called industrialisation has resulted in increased competition, representing a new challenge for the smugglers in procuring enough rubber boats, engines, and fuel containers to meet the demand, MOAS said. The foundation added that this is leading to unprecedented numbers of migrants and asylum seekers being placed on unseaworthy rubber boats.  

“The combination of heavier loads and inferior quality is a recipe for disaster”, MOAS Head of Operations Ian Ruggier said.

Ruggier also said that there is no doubt that the vessels are built to last a few miles to see people beyond Libyan territorial waters. 

MOAS cited the number of deaths this year as reaching almost 4,300. However, it noted that the true death toll is much higher than the recorded figure. “It is highly likely that many boats sink without ever being reported. It is now more challenging for rescuers to spot all the boats being sent in one wave, and then manage to rescue everyone,” it said.

MOAS continued its call for the creation of safe and legal routes
MOAS continued its call for the creation of safe and legal routes
According to MOAS, over 30,000 people have already been saved since it launched its first mission in 2014, with almost 19,000 having been rescued and assisted since June of this year alone.

MOAS added that relatively the same number of asylum-seekers are crossing from Libya to Italy. “While the number of people crossing the Mediterranean as a whole has decreased when compared to previous years, it must be noted that the number of people attempting the Central Mediterranean route – from Libya to Italy – has remained largely unchanged.”

MOAS continued its call for the creation of safe and legal routes “to end the needless loss of life at sea and to guarantee protection and dignity for human beings in search of a better life”.  

“Crossings in the Mediterranean will not be stopped by creating more borders or building walls and fences,” said MOAS director Pete Sweetnam. “There is no force based solution to migration. People will always find a way to come to Europe. There is an urgent need to manage the phenomenon rather than try to hide behind razor wire. For this to occur European leaders must stand up and be counted.”